Providence, R.I., Oct 27, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who charged that the Catholic Church is promoting dissent about proposed health care legislation, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence has replied that the bishops cannot support a proposal that covers abortion. He asked the Congressman to apologize for his “irresponsible comments.”
In an interview with CNSNews.com, Rep. Kennedy, son of the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, had accused the Catholic Church of fanning “the flames of dissent and discord” because Catholic bishops declared that they will oppose the proposed health care reform unless it explicitly prohibits funding of abortion.
In a Friday statement published on the website of the Diocese of Providence, Bishop Tobin replied:
“Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s statement about the Catholic Church’s position on health care reform is irresponsible and ignorant of the facts. But the Congressman is correct in stating that ‘he can’t understand.’ He got that part right.
“As I wrote to Congressman Kennedy and other members of the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation recently, the Bishops of the United States are indeed in favor of comprehensive health care reform and have been for many years. But we are adamantly opposed to health care legislation that threatens the life of unborn children, requires taxpayers to pay for abortion, rations health care, or compromises the conscience of individuals.”
The bishop called Rep. Kennedy a “disappointment to the Catholic Church” and to the citizens of Rhode Island.
“I believe the Congressman owes us an apology for his irresponsible comments. It is my fervent hope and prayer that he will find a way to provide more effective and morally responsible leadership for our state,” Bishop Tobin’s statement concluded.
Paterson, N.J., Oct 27, 2009 (CNA) - A church janitor has been arrested in the murder of a New Jersey Catholic priest whose body was found in the church rectory. The arrest caused shock and disbelief among parishioners.
On Friday Fr. Edward Hinds’ body was discovered in the church rectory at St. Patrick’s Church in Chatham, New Jersey. He had been stabbed 32 times with a kitchen knife.
Authorities say the murder occurred about 5 p.m. Thursday after an argument between the priest and church janitor Jose Feliciano.
Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi told CNN that the two men argued over Feliciano’s continued employment. Fr. Hinds called 911 from his cell phone and reported he was being attacked and needed help. The call was cut off.
When the dispatch operator called back, Feliciano allegedly answered and said “everything’s fine.”
The operator was not able to trace the location of the cell phone and so was unable to send authorities.
Bianchi reported that investigators found the priest’s cell phone, bloody clothing and bloody towels at Feliciano’s home in Easton, Pennsylvania.
Parishioner Dan Langborgh, 47, said the crime was “just not believable.”
“Jose is a very nice guy who has been around for many years. He's the last person I would have suspected," Langborgh commented.
According to the Associated Press, Feliciano had worked at the church for 17 years and his family is part of the parish. His son is a graduate of the church’s K-8 school and his daughter is a student there.
Fr. Hinds, who was born in nearby Morristown, had been pastor at St. Patrick’s since 2003. He regularly walked Copper, his cocker spaniel, in the neighborhood.
Chatham, a well-off bedroom community of about 10,000 residents, saw its last violent death in 1990. Authorities and residents initially suspected that Fr. Hinds had been murdered by a needy outsider.
Parishioners learned of Feliciano’s arrest on Saturday near the end of the 5 p.m. Mass.
Parishioner Juliette Peros told the Star Ledger of Newark that several people cried when the announcement was made and a woman seated behind her yelled, "Jose! No, Jose!"
The Diocese of Paterson issued a statement after Fr. Hinds’ death which read:
“We are grieved at the loss of Father Edward Hinds, beloved pastor of St. Patrick Church in Chatham, whose life has been tragically cut short. We join together with the parishioners, families and friends of Father Hinds in prayers for the repose of his soul.
“May God grant him eternal rest.”
Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 27, 2009 (CNA) - A Pennsylvania Episcopal church which joyously greeted the announcement of a provision to assist Anglicans who wish to become Catholic could be among the first to take advantage of the church structure put forward by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Church of the Good Shepherd, an Episcopalian parish in the Philadelphia Maine Line suburbs, is an “Anglo-Catholic” parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. According to the Rosemont Journal, its liturgy is celebrated in the “high church” style reminiscent of traditional Catholic churches: with incense, elaborate vestments, and a choir that may sing in Latin.
The parish has objected to recent changes in the denomination, such as its allowing women and homosexuals to become priests and bishops.
Bishop David L. Moyer, who leads the Church of the Good Shepherd, said that for two years the parish had been praying daily for the Pope’s action towards Anglicans.
“When I heard the news I was speechless, then the joy came and the tears,” he told the Rosemont Journal.
Following a Mass devoted to church unity, Rev. Aaron R. Bayles, the assistant pastor, reported that the majority of parishioners would be “on board” with the development.
He said he himself was exultant when he heard the news because he had always hoped for the unification of Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christianity. The new provision for Anglicans may be “a step in that direction,” he commented.
For 17 years the parish has refused to allow the local Episcopal bishop to come for a pastoral visit or confirmation. It also stopped paying its annual financial assessment to the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. The diocese sued to take over the Church of the Good Shepherd’s building in 2009. It is a replica of a 14th-century English country parish that was built in 1894. The property is estimated at $7 million in value.
Bishop Moyer was made a bishop in the Traditional Anglican Communion and was one of its 38 bishops to sign an October 2007 petition asking Pope Benedict XVI for an arrangement that would unite Anglicans with the Catholic Church.
He explained that he had been defrocked for disobedience to Episcopal Bishop Charles E. Bennison, but he remained in place.
The Church of the Good Shepherd never formally left the Episcopal Church, in part because it did not want to be evicted from its property. Bishop Moyer, who lives in a rectory on the church’s property, said he hoped to resolve the “legal quagmire” over the property before the church decides to join the Catholic Church.
While the Anglican provision will allow married Anglican priests, it would not allow married bishops. Bishop Moyers is the father of three and is waiting to hear what his status could be under the proposal.
He told the Rosemont Journal that some of his parish’s 400 members would choose to leave rather than become Catholic. Some are former Catholics who may not want to go back, while others remain loyal to the Episcopal Church.
Ann Arbor, Mich., Oct 27, 2009 (CNA) - A 63-year-old tradition of having a privately maintained nativity scene on a public median in Warren, Michigan has been ended after the local road commission received a threatening letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The move has resulted in a lawsuit charging that the ban on the display is discriminatory.
In 1945 St. Anne’s Parish received a donation of Christmas nativity statues which were too large to set up inside the church. Some parishioners thought the statues and a manger could be displayed in the center of the village during the Christmas holidays.
Warren’s village president granted permission to display the nativity scene on the road median.
Since 1945, a nativity display has been erected at the location by Warren resident John Satawa and members of his family. He took over responsibility for the display from his father, Joseph Satawa, who died in 1965.
Community members, private businesses and organizations have also helped maintain the tradition.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation claimed that the presence of the nativity display violated the “constitutional principle of separation of church and state.”
In December 2008, after receiving the group’s letter, the Road Commission demanded that Satawa immediately remove the display, citing improper permits.
Satawa’s 2009 permit application was denied on the grounds the nativity display “clearly displays a religious message” in violation of the “separation of church and state.”
On October 23 the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Satawa against the Macomb County Road Commission. The suit charges that the Road Commission’s restriction violates Satawa’s First Amendment rights and his equal protection guarantee under the Fourteenth Amendment. The suit also charges that the commission’s policy decision violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause by disfavoring religion.
The Law Center filed the lawsuit to obtain a declaratory judgment that the Road Commission’s actions were unconstitutional and to secure a court order permitting the display.
Law Center attorney Robert Muise, who is handling the case, said that the U.S. Supreme Court holds that public streets are “held in the public trust” and are “properly considered traditional public forums for private speech.”
“Moreover, the Supreme Court has also stated that ‘private religious speech, far from being a First Amendment orphan, is as fully protected under the Free Speech Clause as secular private expression.’ Consequently, by restricting speech because it is religious expression, the Road Commission is imposing a content-based restriction on private speech in a traditional public forum in clear violation of the Constitution,” Muise added.
Law Center President and Chief Counsel Richard Thompson was very critical of the Road Commission’s action and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
“Every Christmas holiday, militant atheists, acting like the Taliban, use the phrase ‘separation of church and state, ’ — nowhere found in our constitution — as a means of intimidating municipalities and schools into removing expressions celebrating Christmas, a National Holiday,” Thompson charged.
“Their goal is to cleanse our public square of all Christian symbols. However, the grand purpose of our Founding Fathers and the First Amendment was to protect religion, not eliminate it. Municipalities and schools should be aware that the systematic exclusion of Christmas symbols during the holiday season is itself inconsistent with the Constitution.”
San Salvador, El Salvador, Oct 27, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador expressed concern this week over the increase in violence in El Salvador and the likelihood that the government will employ military personnel to put an end to it.
The archbishop’s remarks came after President Mauricio Funes stated that he may employ 6,000 soldiers to assist the police force “with regards to public safety.”
Currently, the president explained, “1,760 soldiers are working with police to patrol 20 municipalities considered to be extremely dangerous.”
The archbishop then spoke cautioning that this step could lead to genocide.
“Any manner of thinking that is arbitrary and outside the law which produces violence only increases the spiral of violence and is a concrete threat that could lead society towards genocide,” the prelate said.
According to official statistics, so far this year, 3,000 murders have taken place in the small, Central American country.
Vatican City, Oct 27, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI marked the tenth anniversary of the election and enthronement of Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, by sending a message to him today. The Pope told the Patriarch that he hopes the good relations between the two Churches would “continue to grow in the years ahead.”
Noting that the “recovery of freedom for the Church in Armenia towards the end of the last century brought joy to Christians throughout the world,” Benedict XVI congratulated the Patriarch on his efforts as leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church over the last decade.
In the Pope's words, Karekin II's work has been “remarkable,” an assessment that he went on to spell out in his message. The Pontiff praised “the flourishing of new initiatives for the Christian education of the young, for the training of clergy, the creation of new parishes, the building of new churches and community centers, as well as the promotion of Christian values in the social and cultural life of the nation."
The Holy Father finished his message by calling upon the intercession of the Patron of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Saint Gregory the Illuminator, and asking God that "we may be ever more closely united in a holy bond of Christian faith, hope and love."
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 27, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the College of Catholic Lawyers of Mexico, Armando Martinez, expressed regret this week that the Mexico City Legislative Assembly is not concerned with "real social problems" and is instead dedicated to promoting gay “marriage” through a reform of the Civil Code.
“There is no time in this era of crisis for the Legislative Assembly to be ignoring real social problems and concentrating on political banalities,” Martinez said noting that the city already recognizes same-sex civil unions. However, “not even a thousand people are affected by the law in a city of 20 million.”
Martinez called on lawmakers to withdraw support for the measure which would only lead to more polarization among Mexicans and challenged them to provide concrete proof as to why such a measure is needed.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 27, 2009 (CNA) - During his homily for the Archdiocesan Mass for Children, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, reminded the 10,000 children present of the need to grow in faith and love. He also asked them to promise Jesus that “where there is hatred, we will bring love, where there is fighting, we will bring peace.”
According to the AICA news agency, Cardinal Bergoglio reflected on the theme for the Mass, “Let’s go to the feast, Jesus awaits us,” and underscored that “the center of the feast must be Jesus.”
“In order for there to be a feast, there must be joy, but also something else: in order for there to be a feast in the hearts of each one of us - pay attention now - we must give joy to others, we must make others joyful, and we must help others to open their hearts to Jesus' feast.”
At the conclusion of the Mass, Cardinal Bergoglio renewed the consecration of both Buenos Aires and the hearts of children to St. Therese the Little Flower.
Afterward, the children released balloons and doves while listening to a recording made by the archdiocesan mission office of the prayer intentions of children who live on the street. “May we all have enough food to eat,” prayed one child. “May all children have a warm home,” prayed another. “May we care for our grandparents,” and “may all the children of the world have a family,” prayed others.
Washington D.C., Oct 27, 2009 (CNA) - Pro-life Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI) has called on President Obama to back up his stated support for the exclusion of abortion funding from health care legislation. Recounting how congressional leaders are opposing funding restrictions, Stupak warned that action is needed as “crunch time” arrives.
Rep. Stupak, who is advocating the inclusion of a Hyde Amendment provision that would bar federal abortion funding from proposed health care reform, spoke about his health care conversation with President Obama in an interview with CNSNews.com.
On Sept. 9 President Obama had told a joint session of Congress: “Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.”
Asked whether the statement was accurate, Rep. Stupak said he had read that statement to the president over the phone.
“And he said: ‘What it says is “under my plan”’—meaning the president’s plan. And I said: ‘With all due respect, sir, you do not have a plan. The only plan we have out is the House plan.’
“So, I don’t know if it is a game of semantics or what,” Rep. Stupak told CNSNews.com.
According to the congressman, the president did not say that the existing health care reform bill in the U.S. House, H.B. 3200, excludes federal abortion funding. Rep. Stupak agreed with the CNSNews.com interviewer that the president’s comment refers to a plan of his that only exists in theory and not to the one actually drafted in committee.
“And when I pointed this out, he said: ‘Go back and work with the people on your committee and get this matter worked out. Work with the speaker. Work with us, would you?’ And I said: Yes, I would. And we have tried. But we haven’t been able to resolve our differences because we do not want public funds going for abortion.”
Rep. Stupak reported that President Obama supports the goal of prohibiting federal dollars from being used to buy insurance that covers abortions, but has not stated his support for Rep. Stupak’s specific language.
“He is supportive of what I am trying to do. However, we are getting down to crunch time. And I would call upon the President to help us out here. The speaker has told me I will not have my amendment. It will not be made in order. It will not be part of 3200.”
At present the House health care legislation includes the Capps Amendment, which would use public funds to pay for abortions, Rep. Stupak explained. Without the cooperation of the president and congressional leaders, he will not have the opportunity to delete those provisions or to add the Hyde Amendment to supersede them.
Valencia, Spain, Oct 27, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Gea Escolano, who retired from the Spanish Diocese of Mondonedo-Ferrol and is currently a missionary in Peru explained this week that one of his most frequent tasks is hearing confessions each Sunday for “five to six hours...although on some days it has been 10.”
Bishop Gea, 80, recently marked his fourth year as a missionary in the Peruvian Diocese of Carabayllo, where he was sent after retiring from his diocese in Spain, which he served as bishop for 18 years.
He said he hopes to remain working “until the Lord wishes” as a missionary in Peru, “where there is a great shortage of priests” and thus an “urgent need for a greater presence of priests and missionaries.”
Bishop Gea also expressed his concern that families in Peru are suffering, “with marriages that are constantly breaking apart, and thus, with children who grow up without the stable and continual presence of their parents.”
In the Diocese of Carabayllo, Bishop Gea collaborates at the parish of Santa Maria de la Providencia, which has been under the care of Spanish missionaries for the last 16 years.
Denver, Colo., Oct 27, 2009 (CNA) - A Denver mother who is one of the 88 pro-life protestors arrested for trespassing on the University of Notre Dame's campus during President Obama's appearance last May, has decided that if charges are not dropped soon, she will have to plead guilty.
Laura Rohling, a mother of three young children, told CNA on Monday that the burden on her family and the financial cost of traveling from Denver to South Bend, Ind. are key factors she is considering as the legal proceedings continue.
The saga involving the 88 pro-life protestors began at Notre Dame on May 8, 2009 when the Catholic university decided to confer an honorary degree on the pro-abortion President Barack Obama and allow him to deliver the commencement address.
As Rohling explained to CNA, “the primary reason for going out to South Bend was to tell my story of choosing abortion years before and how it did not 'fix' my problem.”
Rohling said that her abortion “was not the right choice in the long term. The decision haunted me for years, and I wanted to tell the students especially that abortion is not a good option.”
When she went to Notre Dame last Spring, Rohling explained that she had no idea that it would “turn into such a big mess.”
Recalling the day, she said, “the vision that sticks most in my mind is that while we were saying the Rosary, I was holding my 'I Regret My Abortion' sign, there were other groups with pro-Obama shirts on that were allowed to stand aside and watch us get arrested.”
Now, along with 87 other protesters, she is faced with charges in St. Joseph County Court that require each defendant to appear for every hearing. Proxies are not allowed, which makes the uncertain defense process expensive and time consuming, especially for those who do not live near South Bend, Indiana.
On October 20, a motion was filed on behalf of the “Notre Dame 88” requesting that all charges be dropped. However, Rohling noted, the judge appointed to the case is the wife of a retired pro-abortion Notre Dame professor and is markedly pro-abortion herself.
Attorney Thomas Dixon, who is representing the protesters, filed another motion for a change of judge in the case, arguing that St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Jenny Pitts Manier is biased. Judge Manier denied any personal or judicial bias in the case.
The “Defendants' Motion to Dismiss” filed by Dixon in South Bend states that “defendants assert that their constitutionally protected rights of freedom of speech and equal protection under the law were violated by these arrests and criminal charges.” Dixon said that the prosecutor has until November 23 to respond.
The hearing for the motion is set for Dec. 3.
In response to various pleas to the university to drop the charges, Father Jenkins, the school's president, sent out a form letter explaining that the matter is out of his hands. Despite the fact that the arrests were made by the Notre Dame Security Police, St. Joseph County, Indiana is the prosecuting party.
Stating that others have also taken pretrial diversions or plead guilty on account of school schedules and other conflicts, Rohling added, “My job first is to raise my children. I cannot continue to travel to Notre Dame for hearings. They will not allow a proxy, so I have to go for every appearance.”
If Rohling pleads guilty to the charges, she will be fined $250, have to pay another $160 in court costs, perform 20 hours of community service, receive one year of unsupervised probation, and have a 10-day jail sentence suspended. “All this,” she says, “for a Rosary, a protest for Orthodox Catholicism, and my free speech rights.”
Despite the cost, the hassle, and the discouragement, she still says, “I'd do it all over again!”
New York City, N.Y., Oct 27, 2009 (CNA) - Joining the response to U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s charge that the Catholic bishops are spreading discord on health care reform, Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan has said the congressman’s remarks were “sad, uncalled-for, and inaccurate” and has asked for an apology.
In an interview with CNSNews.com, Rep. Kennedy (D-RI), son of the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, had accused the Catholic Church of fanning “the flames of dissent and discord” because Catholic bishops declared that they will oppose the proposed health care reform unless it explicitly prohibits funding of abortion.
Archbishop Dolan commented on Rep. Kennedy’s remarks in an Oct. 26 blog post on the Archdiocese of New York’s website.
“The Catholic community in the United States hardly needs to be lectured to about just healthcare. We’ve been energetically into it for centuries. And we bishops have been advocating for universal healthcare for a long, long time.
“All we ask is that it be just that -- universal -- meaning that it includes the helpless baby in the womb, the immigrant, and grandma in a hospice, and that it protects a healthcare provider’s right to follow his/her own conscience.
“This is what the President says he wants; this is what we bishops say we want,” he continued.
The archbishop said that Bishop of Providence Thomas Tobin, Rep. Kennedy’s bishop, had a “good point” in saying that the Congressman owes an apology to the Catholic Church.
Bishop Tobin also called Kennedy a “disappointment to the Catholic Church” and criticized his remarks as “irresponsible.”